“Adventure Time” was an animated television series that aired on Cartoon Network between April 5, 2010 and Sept. 3, 2018. Created by Pendelton Ward and produced by Frederator Studios, the show ran for ten seasons with 283 episodes. On Aug. 31, 2023, a spin-off mini series titled “Fionna and Cake” aired on Max. After ten episodes, its season 1 finale aired on Sept. 28, 2023. With these two incredible media finally coming to a close, I wanted to look back on a major plot point that has spanned both series — the love story of Simon Petrikov and Betty Grof.
Simon first appears in Season Three, Episode 12 of “Adventure Time.” While watching through forgotten tapes from the Ice King – the show’s recurring antagonist – protagonists Finn and Jake come across Simon’s video diary. Here, he presents an important yet dangerous item that he’s recently added to his collection — Ice King’s crown.
When Simon acquired the crown, he ran home to show his fiancée, Betty, but when he jokingly placed it on his head, it showed him maddening visions. When he came to, Betty was gone. As the diary entries pass, we see Simon’s slow descent into madness as he turns blue, grows cold, and stops aging before he morphs into the Ice King himself.
Sprinkled through the following seasons, we see snippets of Ice King’s past and his transformation. However, we don’t see Betty again until Season Five, Episode 48. Instead of following their story through episode order, let’s unravel the love story of Simon and Betty chronologically for simplicity’s sake.
The pair met at a library when they both reached for the same book. At the time, Simon was a highly criticized researcher of ancient artifacts. Betty was a novice researcher and a devout admirer of his work. Here we can already see the seeds forming of an unbalanced power dynamic within their relationship. He later invites her on an expedition with him and through their shared experiences it is Simon’s first successful expedition. They find the artifact they were searching for. Upon returning, Betty tells Simon that he should bask in the glory himself. She knows how much this moment means to him after years of struggle. So, with the first of many sacrifices that Betty makes, she drives off while Simon speaks to a drove of reporters.
Returning to the library where they met, Simon finds a note from Betty in the book they had both reached for. It tells Simon of how she is leaving on her own expedition but would love to be by his side as well. He rushes to her, realizing that he doesn’t want to lose her either. They embrace each other while the bus that was meant to take Betty comes and goes. She stays to be with him and study the artifact they acquired together. But Simon misunderstood her. She wanted Simon to go with her on that expedition, but instead, he asked her to stay and help with his own work. He doesn’t realize that she’d do anything for him because she’s obsessed with him — even if she knew it wasn’t in her best interest.
During this moment, a song plays from Betty’s headphones that Simon will always remember as “their song.” (Seriously though, “Everything in You” by Half Shy is amazing. I beg you to give it a listen.) After such, the pair spends many years together until Simon dons the crown. Through it all, he believes that his story with Betty is over.
1,000 years after Simon first donned the crown, the world has gone through many changes, yet the Ice King has been there to watch it all through broken eyes and an obsession with finding a princess. Even through his madness, with his memories of her gone, he still wants to find his princess — his Betty.
Then, one fateful day in the heart of Wizard City, a being of pure anti-magic was summoned and drained the magic from everything in the area, including the Ice King and the crown. He instantly transformed back into Simon. Fearful and confused, he made his way back to the Ice King’s home with the only thought of seeing Betty again.
With the help of newfound friends and his old research, he creates a portal to the moment he first wore the crown. Simon’s only wish is to see why she left all those years ago and tell her that he understood. However, upon realizing that her Simon is about to be changed, she jumps into the portal right as it slams closed.
This is the most life-altering sacrifice that Betty makes for Simon. She has forsaken all semblance of a normal life or future in her dedication to be with him. Simon let it all happen. The reality of the situation quickly sets in for Betty when she realizes that without the crown, Simon is quickly dying of his age. He wants to die with his sanity in her arms, even though she just gave up literally everything to be with him. She can’t accept that and begs him to let her fix it all. With the only thing Simon has ever sacrificed for her, he lets Betty take up this impossible task.
Throughout the following seasons, we see Betty try time and time again. To try and save Simon. Magic, madness, and sadness fill her world as her experiments fail, but throughout it all she unknowingly hurts the Ice King. She hurts his body and mind when she tries to tamper with the crown. She hurts his psyche when she tells him that she’s trying to erase his existence. She refuses to let go of the fact that Simon cannot come back in any conceivable way. She slowly starts to lose all semblance of herself through this obsession and is aware of it.
After many failed attempts, Betty does want to try and heal. She reflects on her past to try and find solace, and during one of these reflections she even says, “I spent so much time dedicated to Simon, I’m not sure there’s even any ‘me’ left anymore.” Yet even still, she continues to look for a way to cure him. She’s aware of all the hurt and pain that he has caused her but she just cannot stop herself.
In the last episode of “Adventure Time’s” run, Betty summons a being of pure chaos named Golb. Upon appearing, it starts to wreak havoc and destroy the Land of Ooo. The Ice King tries to get her to stop, and in her anger at this, they both accidentally fall into the mouth of the demon. As it slowly digests their essence, they’re both reverted to their past selves. The Ice King morphs back into Simon, Betty returns to a time before insanity took hold of her, and the crown reverts to its original form with the ability to grant its first bearer any wish. Knowing that she must save Simon and Ooo, she places the crown upon her head and wishes for the power to keep Simon safe. Simon is pushed onto the ground and an explosion comes from Golb. When the dust settles, Golb has morphed into a semblance of Betty, and Simon is left mourning his lost love. GolBetty returns through the portal and disappears.
This is the last of Betty and Simon for a long time. But with “Fionna and Cake,” we are allowed to see the end of Simon’s story and the aftermath of his grief. In the early episodes of the show, Simon is seen trying the same ritual that Betty used all those years ago. Even decades later he cannot let go of her. However, in his failure, he accidentally summons Fionna and Cake and sets off the events of the series. Throughout his journeys with the two, he recalls his time with Betty with great love. He tells the pair how they met and the time they spent together.
Eventually, however, you are reminded of the darker undertone of this mini-series. You are constantly reminded that the trio is looking for the crown to make Simon the Ice King again and return magic to Fionna’s world. After everything that Betty did and gave up to save him from that fate, he is actively searching for it once more. When the time comes for Simon to don the crown once more, he is instead transported to GolBetty herself. After a strange “choose your own adventure book” in the distant future, Simon comes to a realization. He finally realizes all Betty sacrificed for him through the years. She gave up her research, her life, her sanity, her physical being, her future all for him. And he let it happen. Time and time again he loved her because of what she gave up for him. He tells her that he had wanted to see her again because he was sorry that he screwed up the second chance at life that she gave him. He didn’t think he was worthy of being saved, but he now knows that he is just as worthy of being saved as Fionna and Cake were. Betty leaves Simon by telling him that she doesn’t regret a single thing that happened. He was a wonderful experience, and she was his everything. She sends him off one last time into the multiverse toward Ooo.
The love story of Simon and Betty is not one of pure love and affection. It is instead a love story of uneven sacrifice, obsession, and loss. The “Fionna and Cake” mini-series was a gift from the creators of “Adventure Time” in the form of a love letter to Simon, Betty, and the worlds they created. Anyone who has ever felt an unexplainable connection to someone can tell you the pain you feel for doing everything for someone while knowing deep down that they wouldn’t do the same for you. “Fionna and Cake” brings to a close a story arc spanning two series, eight seasons, and over 200 episodes. For that, I will always be grateful for the stories these characters have been allowed to live and feel for us.